A great ready-to-serve punch and plenty of wine or beer will keep your guests happy when you throw a big party, but there are occasions – usually smaller gatherings – when you should take drink requests. To do so, you'll need more than a half handle of cheap vodka and a bottle of your favorite scotch. That's why you should stock up on ingredients for classic cocktails: an old-fashioned, a martini, a mojito. Draw the line at green apple schnapps – no one needs an appletini – but make sure your home bar has enough booze, bitters, and garnish to keep your company satisfied.
Here is a simplified shopping list.
Every bar needs two rums: One to sip, and one to mix. For the former, look for a darker rum like Mount Gay Black Barrel or Admiral Rodney ($50), an ideal rum for sipping straight, coming at you from every direction – caramel, citrus, vanilla, and a hint of the barrel. Float a teaspoon of these atop a mojito for extra kick. For a mixing rum – to make dark and stormys or mojitos – go clear with 3 Stars Plantation and Bully Boys' white rums.